Vulnerable red riding hood image by Maisy Marrs

Image Courtesy of Maisy Marrs

Psychopaths can easily spot a vulnerable person.

They have an uncanny ability to look at a you and tell if you’re a potential victim, one who will easily succumb to their mind games and provide them with what they need.

Vulnerability is defined as being “capable of or susceptible to being wounded or hurt,” or “open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.”

What makes you vulnerable? What kinds of things let a psychopath know you might be an easy target simply by watching you walk down the street or by having a short interaction with you?

If you’re experiencing any of the following in your life, you could be giving off the vibes of a potential victim:

  • Loneliness
  • Isolation from (or the lack of) good friends and family
  • A craving for a love relationship (if you’re in this category, you are particularly vulnerable)
  • A previous victimization that hasn’t been resolved
  • A strong need for approval, attention or support
  • A poor sense of self-worth, low self-esteem or a lack of self-respect
  • Being new in town
  • The death of someone close to you
  • Loss of a job
  • A recent divorce or breakup
  • Illness
  • Any other stressful event or loss

It’s sad but true the psychopath will hit you when you’re down, although he’ll act like he’s appeared in your life as the perfect person to fulfill your needs and desires. Vulnerable people are the easiest to victimize, and the psychopath can  bond with them quickly and deeply with promises of providing something they desperately want.

We’re all vulnerable at one time or another, and there’s nothing wrong with that — except that it can make you the target of a predator.

Stressful life events create a general demeanor of vulnerability — which the psychopath sees as weakness and neediness — that reveals itself through mannerisms and subtle signals like the way you walk, your posture, your facial expressions, the amount of eye contact you make, and the tone of your voice.

What can you do?

When you’re going through any kind of hard time in life, when you have some deep need that is unfulfilled, when you’re lonely or when you’re experiencing anything on the list above, be aware that you’re giving off vibes of vulnerability and be wary of new people who enter your life, especially those who seem offer a solution to your problem or an answer to your prayer.

According to Robert Hare,PhD, psychopathy researcher, psychopaths  indirectly communicate four basic things to seduce their victims:

I like who you are.

I’m just like you.

Your secrets are safe with me.

I’m the perfect partner for you.

To the vulnerable person the psychopath seems to be exactly what they need, so they happily take the bait.They believe their deepest desires have been fulfilled and their problems have been solved.

Actually, their problems are just beginning.

Psychopaths have a relentless need for self-gratification. They know exactly what your needs are, and they have the ability to put on whatever mask (persona) is necessary to get what they want from you. The psychopath gives you a delicious taste of what you need, which gives him great power over you. The realization that he could also take it away gives him even more power, and he plays that hand for all it’s worth.

Having needs is normal. For example, as humans we need love. That only becomes a problem when we believe there is only one person who can fulfill that need, one perfect partner who seems like our soul mate, who seems to know exactly what we lack and who seems to provide it so well. That’s the hook, the line and the sinker. It’s also absolutely untrue, but the victim can’t see this when caught up close and personal in the psychopath’s sticky web of deceit. After the fact, you’ll realize there was absolutely no substance to it; you’ll see the love the psychopath claimed to feel was like a mirage. In the desert, a mirage appears from a distance as a shimmering pool of water, but upon closer investigation you find there’s not one drop to quench your thirst. It only looked that way.

Psychopaths see human traits that they don’t have (love, insecurity, trust, compassion, fear) as weaknesses to exploit. They feel they have a right to victimize vulnerable people because they see them as weak or even worthless. They gain your trust and love only to gain control over you to get what they want.

If you aren’t aware your own deepest fears, desires, motivations and needs (and many people aren’t), you leave yourself open to the control of a manipulator. By knowing your own vulnerabilities, you can become aware of possible attempts at exploitation. Awareness of your “weak spots” gives you a chance to thwart an attack.

When someone knows you better than you know yourself, you’re at great risk. Take the time now to learn your vulnerabilities; it can help you to prevent victimization.

 I recommend the excellent book by Harriet Braiker, PhD.,Who’s Pulling Your Strings? How to Break the Cycle of Manipulation Chapter 8, titled “What Are Your Hooks?” contains a valuable exercise that will help you figure out what you most want or need in your life, such as security, love, sexual fulfillment, happiness, a life partner, etc.

Some good defenses against a destructive relationship with a psychopath are these:

Know yourself well, which means knowing all the places where you’re needy, lacking, wounded and fearful.


When the perfect person comes along and fulfills your wishes like a genie from a magic lamp, look closely for the substance behind it, and look closely at the character of the genie. It’s hard to think critically and look for problems when you believe you’ve found someone wonderful, but it is necessary.

5 stars

“The BEST Manual on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim again… I am going to recommend it to the facilitators in the divorce support group I am attending.”

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